One of the biggest concerns our readers have is making sure their future caregiving needs are mapped out. While no one likes to think about the future, many of our readers are concerned about leaving the responsibility and the burden with their children. But what happens if you don't have any kids? How do you plan for the future then?
If you're childless, or your kids are not in a position to help you, you're not alone. "Elder orphans" are becoming more prevalent, with some research suggesting that nearly 1 in 5 older adults have neither children nor a spouse to take care of their growing needs as they age.
This shouldn't come as a surprise. Divorce rates are higher than ever, we're having less kids than ever and even when we do have kids many are living in distant cities. So how do you make sure you're going to get the type of care you're looking for in the future? The first thing you have to do is plan now, before there's a crisis, where you may not be in a position to give instructions.
Get Your Legal Documents in Order
At the very least you should meet with a lawyer and put your wishes on paper. This includes a power of attorney and a living will (advanced directives). This will ensure that if you're no longer able to make decisions on your own, and you have no one to make those decisions for you, you can hand that power to a friend, attorney, professional or a health care providers to act in accordance with directives you write out now.
Get Your Financial House In Order
Meet with your financial advisor and/or accountant to discuss your financial needs and capabilities. Understanding what you can afford, over what period of time, will help inform you of your available options. Once you have an idea of what you can afford, you can then set aside the funds to finance your future caregiving needs and preferences.
For example, if you're financial advisor determines you can conservatively spend $X per month, you can then determine whether or not you can live at home with private care, or move to an assisted living community and within what budget range.
We would also recommend that you provide instructions to your lawyer to draft your preferences in your living will, to ensure they're met in the future. This will prevent confusion, ensure you get the care you want even if you can't ask for it yourself at the time and prevent others from exploiting your situation in the future. Lastly, it will make sure everyone knows where to access the funds to finance your instructions.
Find a Trusted Friend
This is important. It's nice to know that even if you don't have kids or a spouse to help you, there are still people who are willing and want to take care of you. The wider your social network, the easier it will be to get the right help when you need it, whether it be finding a doctor, paid caregiver, housekeeper, driver etc...
The more connected you are to the social fabric of your community, the more likely it will be that you'll be able to draw on the right caregiving tools when you need them. What does that mean? Get involved with your church, synagogue, senior center, YMCA, library etc... You'll be surprised to learn the breadth of caregiving options provided within your community like meals on wheels, volunteer drivers, free adaptive devices, library book delivery, exercise classes, fall prevention classes, weekly caregiving visits, weekly outings, and so much more.
Prepare Your House For Later, Now
If you plan on living in your own home for as long as possible, get it re-modeled now. Add lighting, hand rails, grab bars, non-slip surfaces. Change all your door, faucet and cabinetry handles from knobs to levers. Make all your kitchenware easily accessible, so everything can be reached without going on your tippy toes or using a chair, stool or step ladder. Fix broken stairs, remove area rugs.
Find yourself a trusted handyman, preferably someone with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation, recommended by a local geriatric care manager or your local senior center. Doing it now will make your home a safer and easier place to live as you age, preserving your independence and health for a longer stretch of time.
Get Your Health Care Documents in Order
Lastly, make sure you have all of your healthcare documents in a place that's easy to find. For example, you might want to list your medications, doctors, specialists, allergies and current and previous health conditions in an easy to find place. You may even want to leave a copy with a friend, family member and your lawyer. You'll also want to keep a copy close to you at all times, like in your purse, or on your kitchen counter.
Another alternative is to use services like MedicAlert or Life Alert, who can help inform emergency responders of your health profile and contacts, if you're not in a position to do so yourself.
Hopefully you find the above helpful! Let us know if you have any other thoughts or suggestions.